Sunday, January 29, 2012

{kitchen adventures} Egg Rolls!

So, we seriously love our Asian food up in this house, but we're not too crazy about the extra sodium, MSG, and fat that's found in most takeout. I love to make mine from scratch, and these egg rolls are probably my favorite kitchen creation. They're very filling (1 or 2 can make a meal), leaner than takeout, and we can easily feed 4-5 people for around 8 bucks. The only thing my family loves more than Asian food is stretching our money a little bit further, so you can imagine that these are a big hit.

I love to make this meal for get-togethers, and after being asked dozens of times for the recipe, I figured I should just post it here.

Homemade Egg Rolls

What you'll need: 

Bagged "coleslaw mix" salad (shredded red/green cabbage and carrots)
Fresh mung bean sprouts
Green onions
Tofu or some type of cooked meat, poultry, or seafood, leftovers are great (I often use chicken breast.)
One package (about 12) egg roll wrappers
2 eggs
Dried ginger
Oil for frying

This recipe is so flexible. You can add or remove any kind of vegetables you like for the filling. Shiitake mushrooms also make a great addition, or a substitute for meat. To save money, a half head of cabbage can be used in place of the pre-cut coleslaw mix.

 Cut the meat or tofu and onions into bite-size pieces and toss into a large mixing bowl.

Repeat with the cabbage.

Cut the bean sprouts more coarsely, leaving each sprout in halves or thirds, and add to the bowl.

Add two eggs and mix.

 Sprinkle on ginger, until you can just start to smell it (about 2-3tsp). Mix.

 Pour about one inch of oil into a tall pot and heat to 345 degrees farenheit. If you don't have a thermometer, medium-high is a good place to start.

While the oil is heating, wrap your egg rolls. Put the wrap so that it makes a diamond shape and fill just below the center of the wrap. You want enough filling to make them full, but they will break if you overfill them. I use 3-4 heaping spoonfuls, about 1/4-1/3 cup. Instructions for wrapping are also usually on the package.

Grab a small bowl of water to wet your fingertips. Use them to moisten the entire outside edge of the wrap.

 Fold your left and right corners in first.

Then fold the bottom edge.

Starting at the bottom, roll the wrap tightly up, moistening the top corner once more.

You should now have something resembling this:

 Once wrapped, use tongs to place each egg roll into the oil. 
Tip: If you don't use a thermometer, test the oil by dropping in a tiny piece of an egg roll wrapper. If it bubbles up, it's ready; just make sure it doesn't burn immediately.

After about one or two minutes, the bottoms should be browned. Flip each roll when this happens.

Cook an additional 1-2 minutes, until bottoms are browned and cool upright over paper towels.

Serve with rice and sauce for dipping. This one is to-die-for. Cook them for someone special and prepare to be in their good graces!

Monday, January 9, 2012

{kitchen adventures} Owl Smash Cake Tutorial


It took me  a while to put this up here, because I like to pretend I still have a chubby little baby who coos at me, rather than a destructive toddler who tears through the house at top speeds, jumps on the pets, and calls me by my first name. 
Anyhow, I got the idea for this cake from this photo I saw on pinterest. My version was so easy to do, I thought I'd share it.

First, grab your bakeware and grease it up! Cans work awesome. This one was a 28 ounce can of tomatoes in it's previous life. You can use the can by itself, because your cake will naturally bake up into a head shape, and you'll only need one piece. I just preferred to have shoulders on my cake*. If you want shoulders too, a 1 cup glass bowl is the perfect size for Mr. Owl's head.

(* Also I'm lying. I didn't think ahead and assumed my can cake would bake flat.)
Bowl Cake and Can Cake (with top already cut flat). Trust me, it's tastier than it sounds.

You'll also need:
  • Cake batter. This one is carrot, but I hold no grudges to anyone who prefers chocolate or yellow cake. Red Velvet however, just march yourself on out of this blog right now.
  • Two , make that 10 chocolate sandwich cookies, in case you mess up, or need to eat one or four.
  • Frosting, in 2 colors, and some kind of piping tool. I used the "spray can" frosting that already comes with tools, like this one
  • Toothpicks or drink stirrers.
  • A hungry birthday kid.
After baking, use a knife to loosen the can cake and plop it down on a paper plate. Cut two small triangles at the top where the wings and chest will separate. Cut them all the way down the body, widening a little bit as you get toward the bottom.

It doesn't have to be perfect since you're frosting it.
 Now frost the chest by making little dots with a star tip on a frosting pipe. Make the dots bigger toward the top, so he can have a puffy bird breast.

Frosted body.
 Finish the back side, but leave the wings naked for now. I got lazy with the back of my bird and just frosted lines. Grab your second frosting color and frost the wings the same way you did the chest.

Now, put some frosting on top where you'll stick his head on.

Stick on your second cake.

Frost the face and head, making two points on top like cat ears.

Halve two cookies and cut one top in half like this. It might take a few tries.

Lay the cookies facedown. (I swear my countertop is clean.) Use a toothpick, kabob, or drink stirrer to poke a small hole in the middle of each. Go slowly, or they'll break and you'll just have to eat them.

Put a toothpick or drink stirrer through the holes you just made to hold the eyes on the owl. But for goodness sake, pull the sharp objects out before you give it to a hungry baby to smash.

Don't let the children see him like this...

Cover toothpicks by frosting on some pupils. I just noticed this photo is looking, ...feminine.

Frost on a cute little beak.

White chocolate chips make great spots for his wings.

Move him to the top of your cake, or onto a plate- wherever he'll be staying permanently- and you can frost some toes onto his front.

And a little triangle for his tail.

Take  the cookie halves you made earlier, and stick them behind his eyes to look like the photo, add a candle, and give to a hungry birthday kid!

 Let the smashing begin!
And seriously, don't forget to pull out those toothpicks!

Kitchen Adventures: Slow Cooker Tex-Mex Chicken

photo coming soon!
Easy to make? Check.
Healthful? Check.
Cheap? Definitely.
Tasty? You betcha!

My own adaptation of this Bajio Chicken recipe from Six Sisters Stuff contains a few more vegetables and lots of whole proteins. On any given weeknight, there's a good probability that you could find my family shoveling this into our faces. Little Z likes it so much, he won't even throw a single piece at the floor; this is a rarity.

Slow Cooker Tex-Mex Chicken
8 generous servings: 375 calories and 3 grams of fat each.
  • 4 large or 6 small chicken breasts, frozen or defrosted
  • 1-2 cloves garlic, to taste
  • 1 Tbsp cumin
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup lime juice (bottled is okay)
  • 1/2 cup salsa
  • 1 4 oz can green chilis- don't bother draining
  • 1 15 oz can black beans- undrained
  • 1 15 oz can yellow corn- drained
   Throw everything into your slow cooker and cook on low for 6-8 hours or high for 4-6 hours if your chicken was defrosted. If it was frozen, add an extra hour on high or 2 hours on low.

Chop or shred chicken. Garnish with any combination of: fresh tomatoes, plain greek yogurt (or sour cream), fresh avocados, lettuce, cilantro, shredded cheese, and/or tortilla strips, and serve on top of tostada shells, tortillas, or a bed of salad greens. Tell your taste buds "you're welcome".